December 7th 2012
X base marks the spots for turtles
Full moon parties and turtles hatching in the sand just a few metres away don’t sound like an easy mix but, at the X base end of Nelly Bay beach, turtle nesting consciousness has taken a new turn. Last night this season's second flatback turtle crawled ashore to dig a nest near the well-known backpackers and it was the staff who, with a little advice and guidance from Island rangers, insured that the marine reptile’s personal space was respected and, who, later, erected a protective para-webbing and picket fence to identify and protect the nest.
Last night’s arrival took her time. With just three flippers she had to.
Aimee Jones, General Manager from X base told Magnetic Times, “We know it’s not always possible to get hold of the rangers and last night the turtle came ashore at about 6pm.
Aimee was called back from home and stayed with the turtle until about 9.15, when, after the eggs were safely deposited, the lady flatback returned across tidal flat to the sea.
“Some of the backpackers told us they’d seen the turtle. We have been given pamphlets and have had staff advised by (Island ranger) Jo Petersen so we can take charge to keep people well clear of nesting turtles and not using (camera) flashes.
Aimee was glad that the turtle came ashore a little after dusk as the time was later than the usual time locals walk dogs on the beach (still often unleashed).
As another turtle nested even closer to the backpackers two weeks ago and a week before last Friday’s full moon party, Aimee decided to make sure no harm came to the nest and hired an extra, dedicated security guard to stand by the nest for the duration of the party.
“The protective fence and webbing can attract curious people and not everyone does the right thing so we hired a guard to protect the nest and make sure people stayed away,” said Aimee.
While no turtles nested on Nelly Bay beach last year, this season, three or possibly four are thought to have nested along the beach - the others near the helipad - this season.
Magnetic Times recently reported Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority species conservation expert, Dr Mark Read who said, “And if you’re a dog-owner, it’s important to restrain your pet when you’re walking along a beach where marine turtles are known to nest, so they don’t harm the turtles or their off-spring.”
Dr Read said visitors should be particularly mindful of how they use beaches at night and in the early morning.
“This is when some of the beaches really come alive with activity – whether it be female turtles clambering on to the beach to nest, or hatchlings starting their maiden voyage out to sea,” Dr Read said.
“It’s best to limit the use of light by turning torches off whenever possible and only viewing turtles with ambient light.
“Artificial light can confuse adult turtles which may disturb their nesting or prevent them from coming ashore.
And in the case of hatchlings, any artificial light shined directly on them can cause them to lose direction as they attempt to make their way to the ocean.”
The turtle nesting and hatching season runs approximately from November to March.
Story: George Hirst
Photo: Penelope Sheridan